Europe Suggestions

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fortfun
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Europe Suggestions

Post by fortfun » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm

Looking at taking a family trip to Europe this summer. Kids will be 10 and 12, trying to beat the grumpy teen years (I guess). I'm thinking about 3 weeks in length. Should have a few airline tickets with miles and will likely use AirBandB, or some other lower budget option for housing. Looking for suggestions on:

1. Destinations. Thinking London and Paris but also considering a 3 week Eurorail pass (with many countries and stops).
2. Affordable housing suggestions.
3. Must sees. So far, I've only been to London, Paris, and Athens (and Greek Islands).
4. Perhaps more affordable destinations/countries that aren't as popular.
5. General advice on Europe.
6. Train vs Flying between countries.
7. Money saving tips (trying to do this for less than 15k).

renue74
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by renue74 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:29 pm

It depends on what your family likes. Museums, history, churches, art, sports, hiking, foodies? Maybe get some feedback from your family to see what their expectations are.

One of the most common things folks do when visiting Europe is packing too much into a trip. Doing too many things.

The Rick Steves website has a great forum where you can find out more info about specific countries. The RS books are also excellent.

Wife and I went to Italy and Switzerland for 2 weeks a couple years ago. Great food, great museums, one of the best vacations we ever took.

Travel....if you travel by train, you'll limit your time actually doing things. If you must travel between countries, cheap flights from easyJet or Ryanair are fine.

Money savings tips....really depends on where you go. Our average lunch prices in Italy were about $20 for 2 people....but when we went to Switzerland...a hamburger, fries and coke was $25 USD.

One thing I loved to do was visit the small markets and grocery stores. I would often buy items to make picnic lunches or snacks. It was also interesting to see what grocery stores sold vs. the US.

Lodging....look at booking.com. That site tends to offer more smaller guest house options. Family run lodging. Keep in mind summer is high season. Expect long lines and higher prices. Depending on where you go, there are city passes that get you into the "fast lane" for museums, etc. Well worth the price if you plan.

Sorry I couldn't be more help, but your question is sorta like "What's the best mutual fund?" :)

Charlesmetz83
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Charlesmetz83 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:32 pm

Following.

We (myself, wife and a friend) are doing a trip in June starting in London then taking the train to Paris followed by Brussels and then Amsterdam. We will then fly home on icelandair and do a couple of day stopover in Iceland.
We are doing AirBNB's everywhere except London, I will use points for a marriott property there.

We have not been to any of these places yet and are doing this trip aa a sampler tour of a few days in each locale to find out where we would want to spend more time in the future.

I too would be interested in any great ideas for things to do that are reasonable in cost.

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whodidntante
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by whodidntante » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:32 pm

I thought Prague was beautiful. It is one of the few cities that wasn't significantly damaged during the war, despite much torch passing being under German occupation then Russian rule then independence. I mean this as a cultural comment not a religious one, but there is a rich history there of the struggle between the protestants and Catholics. So if you want to see some beautiful and authentic cathedrals, and a city that just absurdly prized beautiful architecture, give it a spin. Bonus: it's really cheap to stay, eat, and do things in Prague.

You should fly there.

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FraggleRock
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Portugal

Post by FraggleRock » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:35 pm

Portugal.
Just spent 3 weeks there.
Wonderful.
Great AirBnBs.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/Portugal
https://juliedawnfox.com
https://portoalities.com/en/

I write this having visited: England, France, Italy, Germany, Spain.
Last edited by FraggleRock on Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

theplayer11
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by theplayer11 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:40 pm

If into natural beauty, Switzerland is a must.

curmudgeon
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by curmudgeon » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:40 pm

Rail pass isn't worth it, especially with a family. You won't want to be constantly on the move. If you really wanted to cover lots of ground, you could go with a bus tour. Individual train tickets, especially bought in advance, work better for trains. See "man in seat 61" for good train advice. Overnight trains can be tempting, but some folks (like me) don't sleep much on them. Lots of discount flight options as well (but read through the fine print for all the add-on costs). You can use flights.google.com to get a feel for flight options.

London is expensive, but fairly easy for kids to enjoy. An apartment would make sense to keep costs down (restaurants are expensive), but it depends on how much you want to cook on vacation. The countryside can be quite enjoyable and different as well; we've enjoyed renting a car and wandering around some of the more scenic regions (Devon, Cornwall, Norfolk, Wales, Scotland etc).

Spain and Italy are somewhat less expensive (except Venice, but I think Venice is worth the cost). I'm not sure I would focus on Paris with kids, maybe someplace like Brugges (Belgium) or Normandy/Brittany might be more approachable. Munich and the castles/alps would also go over well. Barcelona is easy to navigate and a bit less expensive.

delamer
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by delamer » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:49 pm

There are several cities in Italy that I woukd be happy to visit again -- Rome, Venice, Naples/Pompei, Florence.

If airfares haven't changed much, you are talking $4,000-$5,000 to go round trip across the Atlantic for 4 of you. Of course, it depend on where you are leaving from and going to. :)

Three weeks with kids that age, I would go with a few cities and stsy in each for several days rather than picking up and moving frequently.

When I did my "grand tour" in college, we did Rome, Munich, Paris, and London in 3 weeks with overnight stops in Zurich and Florence.

Jags4186
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Jags4186 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:51 pm

Not sure your interests but if this is like a once in a lifetime type trip it’s hard to pass up on Rome and the Vatican. You can see 5,000 churches in Europe or go to St. Peter’s and realize everything else will be hohum after that. Will save you a bunch of time to be honest. :D

AerialP
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by AerialP » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:43 pm

theplayer11 wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:40 pm
If into natural beauty, Switzerland is a must.
+1
I highly recommend basing in Bern and using the Swiss Pass (available beforehand in the US via raileurope.com) for unfettered travel on almost every mode of transportation and almost every route in the country, as well as free (or greatly reduced) admission to hundreds of museums and attractions.

My other recommendation for European travel is to avoid restaurants. It is nifty to have a couple of meals with service and/or the outdoors cafe experience, but most Europeans (as well as most everyone everywhere) eat what they've bought at a market or a grocery and I firmly believe that a truer representation of a country's national palate is to peruse their food shelves, eating the relatively cheaper offerings which are much more typical of the quotidian.
Related, if you're so inclined, bring along a corkscrew in your checked luggage. The high quality of wine at an impressively low price will likely be one of the highlights of your vacation.

curmudgeon
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by curmudgeon » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:06 am

One more point: Try to fly open-jaw. Round-trip to one city will waste time and energy if you are covering more than one country. Check out some of the discount trans-atlantic flights beyond just the major airlines; Norwegian and WOW are a couple of options. Smaller airlines can be more vulnerable to big delays if a plane goes out of service, though.

Some FF programs have some extra flexibility on flights, BUT, summer availability of "saver" FF tickets can be really tough. United will let you do a "stopover", and open-jaw, on a Europe FF ticket. That is, you could fly to London, stop for a few days, then go on to Munich, and finally return to US from yet another city all on the standard RT miles. American and Delta aren't as flexible, but I'm pretty sure they do allow open-jaw. You can also do one-way FF tickets without a big penalty. American miles can be awkward to Europe because they try to send you via British Air, which has huge cash surcharges on FF tickets. Other airlines also have varying cash surcharges for flights from certain airports, but not nearly as high as BA.

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Watty
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Watty » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:10 am

fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
5. General advice on Europe.
Get the Rick Steves books and check out the Rick Steves web site. His books will have suggested itineraries.

https://www.ricksteves.com/

Start out with his Europe Through the Back Door book.
fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
1. Destinations. Thinking London and Paris
You will get saturated with museums, castles, and cathedrals so if you see London and Paris back to back especially the kids may be overwhelmed. Try to get a mix of big cities and the countryside.

London and Paris will be very expensive with prices that are comparable to New York City or San Francisco. Be cautious though about getting hotels that are marginal to save money since they you can end up in a bad area or end up in a dive. See the Rick Steves books for acceptable budget hotels. I am normally a very frugal traveler and have stayed in hostels and lots of smaller inexpensive(but well researched) places but I have found that in very large cities it is often best to bit the bullet and pay for a decent place to stay even if it costs more than I would like.

Check the Rick Steves book to see what attraction you need to get tickets for in advance. There are some attractions where you will want to buy the tickets months in advance.

Always check to see when the local holidays are since that can impact your travel, or give you something extra to see.

You normally need to buy travel insurance within about a week of when you make your first reservations. There have been threads about travel insurance that you can look up.
fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
7. Money saving tips (trying to do this for less than 15k).
Southern Europe will be a lot less expensive than central or northern Europe. For example Spain, Italy, and Greece (I found France to be more expensive but that might just have been where I was.) It can be very hot in Southern Europe in the summer and the A/C (if they have it) may not be up to us standards because electricity is very expensive there. June would be better but be sure to research what the areas are like when you will be there.

You could easily spend three weeks in Italy in June and you said you have already been to London and Paris. Not traveling a lot between distant cities will save you a lot of money.
fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
2. Affordable housing suggestions.
Don't rule out hostels.

We stayed in hostels in Ireland when we were traveling with my 17 year old son. We were able to get a private rooms everywhere except with one very small town and we often had a private bathroom. A big saving was that they had a kitchen you could use and that help saved the cost of eating out. After you have been on the road a while you really don't feel like eating out every night anyway. With hostels you have to do more than normal research and I would avoid them in urban areas. Many of them in rural Ireland were very nice and were a good experience but I don't know about about other countries.

Evaluate how far in advance you really need to make your hotel reservations. Not having every night book may give you a lot more flexibility. We normally travel in the shoulder season so we often don't make reservations more than a few days ahead of time except for in large cities and key dates like when we have a flight.
fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
7. Money saving tips (trying to do this for less than 15k).
With four people renting a car will likely be less expensive than buying train tickets in some situations. You would need to read the details but when I rent a car in Europe I use American Express and I have signed up for their deal where for about $25 per rental they cover the car insurance better than your normal credit card coverage. You will normally get a much better rate for weekly rentals that are exactly 7 or 14 days. You do not want a rental car in a large city.

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Epsilon Delta
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Epsilon Delta » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:34 am

While London is generally expensive several museums are free. This includes the Tate Galleries, the National Gallery and British Museum but for kids the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert are free, interesting, close together and near Hyde park. So you can spend a few hours at a museum, get lunch, let the kids run around the park then go back. You can probably do this for several days, probably not consecutively. You might want to split up if the kids have different interests.

DrGoogle2017
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:11 am

London is a lot of fun. Tons of things to do. One of my kids were not to fond of Italy. She didn’t even like the food there. But they both love Switzerland.

chipperd
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by chipperd » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:09 am

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chipperd
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by chipperd » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:12 am

chipperd wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:09 am
Just did a month with wife and three teens (16, 14 and 13) summer of 2016. We went to Oslo, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, Barcelona and final week on the west coast of Ireland over one month. What worked for us:
-Flying Norwegian air into Oslo. Although Norway is expensive to stay ($300/night hotel, food pricey), Cheap flights from the east coast US (NY) and then really cheap flights to mainland Western Europe ($75 for us from Oslo to Vienna). We stayed almost exclusively in Airbnb with the family, with the exception being Oslo (two nights only).
-Once in Western Europe, we then took trains to all the places listed above with the exception of flights from Rome to Barcelona on Ryanair ($50) and then from Barcelona to Cork, Ireland ($75).
-Purchasing destination train tickets online in advance was much cheaper than Eurorail pass. The wife and I did Eurorail thirty years ago and it was fun and worth it then as you can decide a trip as you go. With kids, you will plan out your destinations, so don't waste your $ on the premium you will pay for the flexibility that Eurorail provides for that extra cost.
-Austria is one of our favorites (wife and I did two months around Europe as "kids" in our early twenties and loved Austria then as much as we do now) and our kids agreed. Easy on the budget with Vienna having much to do and Saltzburg is postcard pretty with a nice walking town center and great hikes for the family to get out that energy.
-Florence is great, can walk with tons to see, not to pricey and we prefer over Rome. Found a great Airbnb there (3 bed, full kitchen) 50 feet from the Ponte Vecchio owned by a woman who has the pottery shop downstairs on the street. She was amazing with referrals for eateries, sites and great wares. (PM me for details if you like).
-Pompeii was on our kid's list and worth the one-hour high-speed train from Rome if you can deal with the connecting train to the actual cite. Cool you can see so much that was preserved, but really hot when we went (July).
-Barcelona is another favorite for all of us. Inexpensive to downright cheap. Can walk to the beach, 80-degree water and there is a bus that you can purchase a day ticket that runs around the city, stopping at the various cites. One price, on and off as much as you like for the day; definitely worth it.Camp Noe tour of the stadium was worth it to us as soccer fans. We like Barcelona and Spain so much it is on our short list of potential retirement sites, just research the recent political issues first. My Uncle just came back from Barcelona and said there were no concerns on his part.
-London and Paris overrated for kids. One of the more expensive places you can go to in the world and not really recommended by us for kids relative to what else is available at much lower cost for families keeping tabs on their budget. If money isn't an issue, then they are fine places to visit.
-I had never been to Ireland before this past trip and the walking and views on the west coast were breathtaking. More expensive than Spain and Austria, but not by much. Needed to rent a van with 5 of us and you will probably need to rent a car. The experience of driving standard on the "wrong side" of the road sitting on the right was an experience unto itself.
Best of luck and PM me for more info and specific referrals
Chipperd

2stepsbehind
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by 2stepsbehind » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:37 am

fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
Looking at taking a family trip to Europe this summer. Kids will be 10 and 12, trying to beat the grumpy teen years (I guess). I'm thinking about 3 weeks in length. Should have a few airline tickets with miles and will likely use AirBandB, or some other lower budget option for housing. Looking for suggestions on:

1. Destinations. Thinking London and Paris but also considering a 3 week Eurorail pass (with many countries and stops).
2. Affordable housing suggestions.
3. Must sees. So far, I've only been to London, Paris, and Athens (and Greek Islands).
4. Perhaps more affordable destinations/countries that aren't as popular.
5. General advice on Europe.
6. Train vs Flying between countries.
7. Money saving tips (trying to do this for less than 15k).
Let me turn this around on you- if a similar family based in Europe asked you for suggestions for places to visit in North America for a three week trip what itinerary would you suggest? That would give us a better perspective on your interests.

voltaire
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by voltaire » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:53 am

Forget the Eurorail Pass. Used to be a great deal years ago.

Now, new high speed rail service in Europe (think French TGV and equivalent in other countries) are mandatory reservation trains. No hop on and hop off without a res as used to be.

The killer is, Pass users can't get a reservation! Pass users are on the bottom of the list for reservations. So a guy buying a ticket for cash will get a set today. Pass user will be left standing in the station.

Check out https://www.seat61.com/ as suggested above for buying individual train tickets as suggested above. For even moderately long distances flying is way faster and likely cheaper. Car rental is very reasonable for four people as opposed to train fare. Costco travel can be very inexpensive for rental via Enterprise etc.

Be sure to look into getting phone/data service in Europe so you can use Wayz or Google Maps to navigate.

bungalow10
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by bungalow10 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:53 am

I live in Amsterdam (been here four months now) with my three kids - 10, 8, and almost 5.

Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general are very lovely, especially in the summer. Canal cruises, places to explore on bike, tons of art museums and beautiful outdoor space, easily accessible to Germany, Belgium, by car and all of Europe by plane or train.

Flights to Amsterdam are around $400 round trip from O'Hare if you shop ahead of time for flights, with a layover in Reykjavik (Iceland). Iceland also allows a layover of up to seven days with no visa requirements.
An elephant for a dime is only a good deal if you need an elephant and have a dime.

livesoft
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:05 am

2stepsbehind wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:37 am
Let me turn this around on you- if a similar family based in Europe asked you for suggestions for places to visit in North America for a three week trip what itinerary would you suggest? That would give us a better perspective on your interests.
What a great idea! I look forward to the response to this suggestion. Actually, this should be required for bogleheads threads that ask for vacation travel suggestions.

Our family rented a French country manor house with friends as a travel base on one of our trips to Europe.
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DarthSage
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by DarthSage » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:50 am

Another vote for reading Rick Steves' "Europe Through the Back Door". He has tips on seeing the "real Europe", not just the touristy spots. He's also big on saving money--he has many great suggestions on where to stay, where to eat, and stuff you never thought about, like doing laundry on the fly or communicating with the locals when you only speak English.

Valuethinker
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Valuethinker » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:11 am

fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
Looking at taking a family trip to Europe this summer. Kids will be 10 and 12, trying to beat the grumpy teen years (I guess). I'm thinking about 3 weeks in length. Should have a few airline tickets with miles and will likely use AirBandB, or some other lower budget option for housing. Looking for suggestions on:

1. Destinations. Thinking London and Paris but also considering a 3 week Eurorail pass (with many countries and stops).
2. Affordable housing suggestions.
3. Must sees. So far, I've only been to London, Paris, and Athens (and Greek Islands).
4. Perhaps more affordable destinations/countries that aren't as popular.
Lots of good advice in this thread. Consider Austria. Slovenia. Possibly Czech Republic (beware pickpockets in Prague). Rural France to the NE (where the US Army fought in WW2).

August is hell for travelling in Europe-- the whole continent is on holiday and tends to head south. So think north of the Alps, generally.
5. General advice on Europe.
Violent crime is low by American standards. Pickpocketing in tourist areas is quite common, ditto bag snatches and thefts from hotel rooms (seems to be a particular problem in Paris, that latter). That said, around some train stations can be sketchy e.g. around Gare Du Nord in Paris-- one would tend to avoid those at nighttime (or just catch a cab in and out quickly).

"Miscounting" change seemed to be a particular problem in Rome. And check that what you ordered is actually what you are paying on the restaurant bill.

Venice is amazing but not worth doing in summer. Really not. The cruise liners just flood the place and it's not very big.
6. Train vs Flying between countries.
7. Money saving tips (trying to do this for less than 15k).
Switzerland only for the sites, and briefly. The country does not use the Euro, but the CHF, and it is brutally expensive. Austria (Tyrolia has less impressive mountains, but is much cheaper, the people gracious, the food hearty) is a good alternative. Note due to WW1, South Tyrole is in Italy (but the locals still speak German and consider themselves more German than Italian).

Italy and Spain are brutally hot in July and August, and all of Europe is on holiday in August (Scandinavia it is July). So I would avoid August south of the Alps and you will find anywhere scenic very busy and expensive.

Throughout western Europe, Italian restaurants tend to offer good family fare. France also has Vietnamese food, which is generally excellent (Britain there are a lot of Turkish and also Thai restaurants).

I would consider a trip that took in Paris & Munich say. Even if your kids don't like art, Munich has a great science museum, a BMW museum and is a really nice and quaint city. Paris is a bit much to be honest, and be extremely careful both with valuables (keep them in the room safe if you don't have them on you) and wallet & phone on the street. But it is Paris and has some great sites.

The other part of the trip would be WW1 and WW2 battlefields as part of a visit to north-eastern France. That would give your kids some history, and some outdoor stuff is also available, there are family oriented things like adventure parcs etc. There are a lot of grand country houses (Chateaux) turned into hotels.

An alternative to Paris would be London. I have waxed on about my home city several times over the past years in various threads. The best strategy is to rent an apartment for a week, if you can. As long as you are in Zones 1-3 should not be too much of a problem-- the Tube is overcrowded in rush hours but works well, and depending on where you are the buses do very well, as does the commuter railway network (something called the Oyster Card, look up the tfl website (www.tfl.gov.uk ) works on all of them within Zones 1-6.

Please do be careful in London about our latest hazard. Kids on stolen mopeds snatching phones from pedestrians. The police have warning signs up in the main areas (West End, Fitrovia, Bloomsbury, Angel Islington, Camden etc.). The kids cover their faces and there's not a lot the police have been able to do-- do not take a smartphone out near a roadway if you can avoid it (despite the obvious prevalence of that pattern among natives). After Tokyo, London is probably the safest large city in the world, but it does have its hazards.

If you are visiting Europe it is better to do 1-2 places well, rather than flying visits to London & Paris & Rome (awful in August) & Florence & Venice & Munich etc.

Other cities which are charming in summer: Vienna and Berlin. Lots of history but also great zoos, other stuff. Scandinavia is bone crunchingly expensive but both Copenhagen and Stockholm are great places to visit and the weather is only really cooperative in summer (you will be amazed how long the daylight lasts-- check the latitude!).

From London you could fly to Munich. Or rent a car in France and do Normandy (D Day Beaches, but there's lots to see in Normandy eg Bayeux Tapestry, cathedrals) although many of the cities and towns were devastated during 1944.

The kids might like a long train trip. London to Paris is easy (and gets booked up well ahead). Paris to Munich, say, is then quite a hike (6 hrs 42 minutes according to google) but would be interesting (although the scenery flies by very fast)-- good to have a map whilst doing it.

London and Paris tend to have awful airports (too much demand not enough capacity) but Frankfurt and Munich really nice ones. There is a quick train from Gatwick to central London (but it's a long way out and you arrive in Victoria Station which is very crowded or you take Thameslink to Blackfriars (a commuter train)) and Heathrow is much closer but it's also very busy-- there may be a family rail ticket to Paddington because your alternative is otherwise to schlep along the Tube (Piccadilly Line) which is a long ride (about 60 minutes to Leicester Square and if you are in rush hour, not a pleasant one). You could arrange a cab pickup for example Addison Lee is a big minicab company (make sure they know it's 4 people, will send a minivan type vehicle)-- that can be slow depending on traffic but air conditioned etc and not more expensive than Heathrow Express to Paddington.

If you are planning to drive on the Continent it is important not to try to do so in a UK car-- we drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. Make sure you understand the rules about roundabouts. Belgium and Portugal have the worst road death rates in western Europe-- a friend's wife lost her leg at a traffic roundabout in Belgium.
Last edited by Valuethinker on Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

Valuethinker
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Valuethinker » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:12 am

DarthSage wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:50 am
Another vote for reading Rick Steves' "Europe Through the Back Door". He has tips on seeing the "real Europe", not just the touristy spots. He's also big on saving money--he has many great suggestions on where to stay, where to eat, and stuff you never thought about, like doing laundry on the fly or communicating with the locals when you only speak English.
Yes I agree about Rick Steves' approach & information. The idea of not being the ugly foreigner, as a tourist.

Maybe he is too popular these days, as a guidebook.

dsmclone
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by dsmclone » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:12 am

I've been to Europe about 6 times and I find that I like to spend about 1/2 the time in a city and 1/2 the time in a rural/town.

If you're going to Paris, please take 3 days to go and visit the Normandy region. Use a town like Bayeux as your base and visit all the WW2 sites. Then one day go visit Mont Saint-Michel. Driving is easy in France.

Rome is my favorite city in Europe. I could spend weeks just walking around looking at the history. Once again, spend 5 or so days in Rome and then spend a few nights in some hill towns, which are amazing once the tour buses leave.

Some other places in Europe I liked but the truth is that 2-3 days is more than enough. I spent 5 days in Munich and 2-3 days would have been fine. One day in Brussels was plenty.

My next trip is probably going to focus on Southern France. I'd love to spend some time in Switzerland but everything is so expensive.

theplayer11
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by theplayer11 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:42 am

yes, Switzerland is expensive, but it's so easy to to do on the cheap. Grocery stores for cheap lunches for example. I found the hotel prices were reasonable. Wife and I prefer the scenic vacations and Switzerland was breathtaking.
We like to stay at a "base" city and take train rides to see other towns and sites. The train travel is very relaxing.
I agree with not trying to jam to many countries on your vacation. IMO, too many rush from tourist spot to tourist spot to take their pics and miss out on so much.

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lthenderson
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by lthenderson » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:52 am

fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
2. Affordable housing suggestions.
Whenever I travel Europe, especially when planning to spend 2 or 3 days in one spot, I always stay at Bed & Breakfast places. They are everywhere and reasonably priced. They almost always include a home cooked meal by the house owner in the morning. I also like the clientele that frequent these places and often find that I'm comparing tourism notes in the morning with them over breakfast. They are way less crowded, more clean and less noisy than hostels.

fourwheelcycle
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by fourwheelcycle » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:37 am

When our children were in the 10 to 12 age range we were still taking them to various US national parks, plus Colonial Williamsburg, for summer vacations. Even then, we tried to hit the parks as early as possible in June, before summer crowds started to grow and the weather got too hot. Europe is very crowded now during the "vacation with kids" season, so that is one thing to consider.

Another consideration, as others have noted, is whether 10 to 12 year olds will really be interested in museums and other cultural experiences. When our sons were in the 14 to 16 age range we each took them on a special vacation. My wife took one son to Florence, Venice, and Pisa, and she took the other one to Paris and Amsterdam. Even at that age, the highlights in Italy were pigeons on St. Mark's Square, gondola rides, the leaning tower of Pisa, and a day at Viareggio beach. The highlights for the son who went to Paris and Amsterdam were Euro Disney and Boom Chicago, plus a bicycle rental along a river in Amsterdam that went past windmills. I took one son hiking in the Grand Canyon and the other one dirt motorcycling in Moab, Utah.
Last edited by fourwheelcycle on Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

bob60014
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by bob60014 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:40 am

With kids, of course fun is important, but even more so is the educational aspect of where you go and what you will see. For their first trip abroad we took ours to the historical sites, the usual places they see on t.v ("hey, we were there", was said often after we returned, and a run to a map helped them to put things in perspective), the local markets and stores and explain to them the differences in prices/packaging and differences in tastes. Get out of the main cities if you can and explore some of the little villages via trains or car rental for another type of experience.

It's amazing what our kids remember years later and how those little educational, yet fun things,, have impacted their early adult years in a positive manner. Safe travels!

livesoft
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:56 am

Valuethinker wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:11 am
The kids might like a long train trip. London to Paris is easy (and gets booked up well ahead). Paris to Munich, say, is then quite a hike (6 hrs 42 minutes according to google) but would be interesting (although the scenery flies by very fast)-- good to have a map whilst doing it.
We've done the the Paris-Munich train and back a number of times overnight. Just sleep through it. Also Munich-Rome can be done sleeping, too.
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nobleGas
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by nobleGas » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:52 pm

My kids love London, where they especially remember the local shops where we bought food. They also had a great time in Italy because we booked the Ferrari/Lamborghini/Pagani tours. And they like travelling on trains. But those are my kids; it's best to find out what your kids are interested in and incorporate that into your plans.

$15k seems plenty if you are willing to stay in less expensive hotels or hunt for bargains on Expedia. I'd advise staying in the city centers unless sitting in traffic or on a commuter train is something you'd like to do on vacation.

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Kitty Telltales
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Kitty Telltales » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:14 pm

I have the pleasure of hearing travel stories from my German adult students and I’m often jealous. I think they are the most travelled people in Europe. Here are some vacations they’ve told me about that are now on my bucket list:

-Houseboat cruise on the canals in the Netherlands (went with wife and 2 daughters who had no boating experience and had a marvelous time)
-Hiking in South Tyrol in Northern Italy (this is a German favorite, even Angela Merkle does it every summer)
-Drive around Scotland, or Norway for that matter.
-People rave about Denmark and from there you can easily reach Sweden
-Southwest England, rent a cottage, see parks, go the beach towns and if London is necessary, take the train in for a day
-One can rent a houseboat in Prague too!
-a lazy bicycle tour in France
-stay in a family run hotel, or rent an apartment (preferably with a pool) in the middle of Italy and drive to the bigger cities or the beach

London and Paris are full of non-European tourists, a like NYC with an accent in my opinion. I guess one should do it once in your life. And perhaps the southern countries are a bit too hot and full of European tourists in the summer months.

Most of my students rent vacation apartments and only occasionally eat in restaurants.

I wonder, do you have any roots in Europe? My first trip here was to Ireland when my son was 10, where my mother’s family came from, and I believe seeing so many faces that looked familiar, like cousins, made a strong impression on him. Ireland has really done a nice job building their tourist industry in the last years. I once booked a house through AirBNB the day I travelled near Cork that only cost 60 Euro per night and it had a beautiful view of the sea.

GmanJeff
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by GmanJeff » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:41 pm

Switzerland gets my vote. Clean, uncrowded and reliable trains connect every place easily with none of the hassles of airports and the country is as safe as it gets. The scenery is incomparable, hiking and other outdoor recreational opportunities abound, and there are small museums, cable cars, cheese factories, cog-wheel railways, special scenic trains ( e.g., Bernina Express, Glacier Express, and others) and specialty trains (e.g., the Chocolate Train) and other attractions suitable for younger kids.

fortfun
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by fortfun » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:17 pm

Thanks 2stepsbehind. Probably a roadtrip through the western National Parks. Arches, Zion, Bryce, Canyon Lands, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite. Or, Yellowstone and Glacier. However, that's just because there's so much open space here. We also love beach time in California and Florida. We did a nice trip to DC and NYC last summer (museums, sight seeing, monuments, etc.) We are pretty well rounded travelers but our kids haven't spent much time outside of the USA (besides Canada and Mexican resorts around Playa del Carmen). My kids are probably happiest on the beach but I think they understand this will be a trip with lots of history, sight seeing, and museums. So, maybe museums/sight seeing half the time, and open space/beaches the other half. We live in Colorado and are already pretty spoiled with an amazing "back yard." Thanks!
2stepsbehind wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:37 am
fortfun wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:08 pm
Looking at taking a family trip to Europe this summer. Kids will be 10 and 12, trying to beat the grumpy teen years (I guess). I'm thinking about 3 weeks in length. Should have a few airline tickets with miles and will likely use AirBandB, or some other lower budget option for housing. Looking for suggestions on:

1. Destinations. Thinking London and Paris but also considering a 3 week Eurorail pass (with many countries and stops).
2. Affordable housing suggestions.
3. Must sees. So far, I've only been to London, Paris, and Athens (and Greek Islands).
4. Perhaps more affordable destinations/countries that aren't as popular.
5. General advice on Europe.
6. Train vs Flying between countries.
7. Money saving tips (trying to do this for less than 15k).
Let me turn this around on you- if a similar family based in Europe asked you for suggestions for places to visit in North America for a three week trip what itinerary would you suggest? That would give us a better perspective on your interests.

livesoft
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:24 pm

Do you need anyone to house sit for you while you are in Europe? 8-)
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fortfun
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by fortfun » Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:28 pm

livesoft wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:24 pm
Do you need anyone to house sit for you while you are in Europe? 8-)
Depends, do you have a chalet in Switzerland? :)

AZAttorney11
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by AZAttorney11 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:32 pm

Charlesmetz83 wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:32 pm
Following.

We (myself, wife and a friend) are doing a trip in June starting in London then taking the train to Paris followed by Brussels and then Amsterdam. We will then fly home on icelandair and do a couple of day stopover in Iceland.
We are doing AirBNB's everywhere except London, I will use points for a marriott property there.

We have not been to any of these places yet and are doing this trip aa a sampler tour of a few days in each locale to find out where we would want to spend more time in the future.

I too would be interested in any great ideas for things to do that are reasonable in cost.
Can you skip Brussels? I found it unremarkable.

bungalow10
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by bungalow10 » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:38 am

AZAttorney11 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:32 pm
Charlesmetz83 wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:32 pm
Following.

We (myself, wife and a friend) are doing a trip in June starting in London then taking the train to Paris followed by Brussels and then Amsterdam. We will then fly home on icelandair and do a couple of day stopover in Iceland.
We are doing AirBNB's everywhere except London, I will use points for a marriott property there.

We have not been to any of these places yet and are doing this trip aa a sampler tour of a few days in each locale to find out where we would want to spend more time in the future.

I too would be interested in any great ideas for things to do that are reasonable in cost.
Can you skip Brussels? I found it unremarkable.
I have heard Brussels is not worth the trip from so many people. Bruges is where its at.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Valuethinker » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:54 am

bungalow10 wrote:
Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:38 am
AZAttorney11 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:32 pm
Charlesmetz83 wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:32 pm
Following.

We (myself, wife and a friend) are doing a trip in June starting in London then taking the train to Paris followed by Brussels and then Amsterdam. We will then fly home on icelandair and do a couple of day stopover in Iceland.
We are doing AirBNB's everywhere except London, I will use points for a marriott property there.

We have not been to any of these places yet and are doing this trip aa a sampler tour of a few days in each locale to find out where we would want to spend more time in the future.

I too would be interested in any great ideas for things to do that are reasonable in cost.
Can you skip Brussels? I found it unremarkable.
I have heard Brussels is not worth the trip from so many people. Bruges is where its at.
Brussels has some nice bits and some great art galleries. However the city as a whole does not hang together well-- bad urban planning. It's a government town and is expensive.

Bruges is kitschy-cute. So yes, a couple of nights there works. It's kind of chocolate-boxy though.

I liked Antwerp a lot. It was like a low key version of Amsterdam-- Amsterdam without the overt sleaziness. Great town square, some fantastic restaurants, a couple of good museums, nice cathedral. It's a bit off on its own though in terms of getting to-from, we found.

Charlesmetz83
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Charlesmetz83 » Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:53 pm

AZAttorney11 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:32 pm
Charlesmetz83 wrote:
Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:32 pm
Following.

We (myself, wife and a friend) are doing a trip in June starting in London then taking the train to Paris followed by Brussels and then Amsterdam. We will then fly home on icelandair and do a couple of day stopover in Iceland.
We are doing AirBNB's everywhere except London, I will use points for a marriott property there.

We have not been to any of these places yet and are doing this trip aa a sampler tour of a few days in each locale to find out where we would want to spend more time in the future.

I too would be interested in any great ideas for things to do that are reasonable in cost.
Can you skip Brussels? I found it unremarkable.
Its actually our only short stop on the trip. We are only going to be there 1 full day/night all other stops are 3+days.
We figured we were right there and a few friends of ours enjoyed it as a stop but suggested only a couple of days so we ended up making it just a short stop on the way to Amsterdam.

amanda71
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by amanda71 » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:09 pm

Look into Ryan air and Easy Jet. I live in Europe and we flew Rome to Venice to Lisbon to Barcelona to Madrid and back to Rome, for 800 euro - 2 adults and 2 teens. We did the same from Italy to Copenhagen to Amsterdam to Prague for about the same price. Also, look into the libraries in the cities you'll be in. Amsterdam and Copenhagen have beautiful libraries and wonderful cafes inside for a great view and a rather inexpensive glass of wine. We love visiting supermarkets when we travel....as do our kids.

Traveler
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Traveler » Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:29 pm

For kids I think Austria is nice - especially Salzburg - you could do a Sound of Music tour and watch the movie before or after the trip. Rent bikes. HIke in the mountains. There is a really fun luge ride outside Salzburg (at least it was there 16 years ago, haha). Visit a salt mine.

2comma
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by 2comma » Sun Dec 10, 2017 12:52 am

DW is from Greece and the airfares in Europe are surprisingly cheap between major cities on the discount carriers - I'm talking like $39-$69 from Athens to cities in Italy and about $100 to London. We did a fast train from Paris to La Rochelle in France and it was a blast to be traveling at 369 mph for parts of the trip, clocked it on my GPS, lots of room and not expensive but be sure to check the travel times and prices before you choose.
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Trelin946
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by Trelin946 » Sun Dec 10, 2017 4:11 am

Here are my suggestions having travelled to Europe extensively in the last decade:

Switzerland- Gimmelwald, Interlaken, Lucerne, Zurich,
The natural beauty is breathtaking especially if you enjoy the outdoors and hiking; safe and easy to get around. The train ride itself is postcard perfect. Pricey if you want to eat out at all times. DH and I are frugal so we got by with sandwiches, coffee and casual meals. It was a painless trade off for the beauty of the place. If you love art, don’t miss the Picasso museum in Lucerne, it is absolutely impressive.

Austria- if you are into classical music. Their opera and the symphony are incredible. You can also take a side tour to Salzburg which is beautiful. Five days would be max for me in Austria

South of Spain (Seville, Granada and Córdoba)- quite different from most European destinations. Feels like half Europe and have Middle East. Such beautiful architecture, gardens, churches and fascinating history. Food is exceptionally delicious at reasonable prices. People are warm and eager to practice their English with Americans.

Paris, London and Rome - definitely wonderful for first time European travelers. Gives you a good impression of the whole continent

Munich and Prague - if you love amazing beers at amazing prices

Berlin - big and sprawling city with high energy night life

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tennisplyr
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by tennisplyr » Sun Dec 10, 2017 8:04 am

We love Italy! Rome, Florence, Venice was great for us during the summer, or the Amalfi Coast Great weather, historic cities and wonderful food. Been to many places and Italy remains one of our favorites, been back many times.
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theplayer11
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Re: Europe Suggestions

Post by theplayer11 » Sun Dec 10, 2017 8:20 am

never been to Prague or Budapest, but multiple people have told me they liked Budapest greatly but Prague not so much.

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